Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Daingerous Liaisons: 13th Annual 2-Stroke Extravaganza

I’ve always been a two-stroke fan because I used to road race them at Southern California tracks. Eventually, along with my brother Alan and a gaggle of other talented riders, I gained a reputation as an RD Yamaha specialist. Without boring you with the details of those halcyon days, all of us top RD riders did pretty well for ourselves, gaining the respect of our peers from the other classes in the process. For the record, I owe a lot of my racing success to my tuner and good friend, John Lassak.

Who says all two-strokes are oily messes? This RD350 is an alloy work of art.

But I digress. This is about all the two-strokers who gathered at Cook’s Corner near Trabuco Canyon, California, this past weekend for the 13th Annual 2-Stroke Extravaganza. Previous events had been held at Woodley Park in the San Fernando Valley, and were sponsored by Moto-Carrera. But M-C wasn’t able to sponsor the 13th annual oilerfest so the local chapter of the 2-Stroke Hooligans switched the venue to Cook’s Corner, which also happens to be the local haunt of Orange County’s Harley crowd. Culturally speaking it was a good mix; the Harleyites left their oil on the parking lot when they shut down their engines, and the two-strokers filled the air with their hydrocarbon molecules any time someone fired up an engine.

Dave Wheeler displayed this Bultaco road racer (top photo) equipped with a road-race conversion kit that he described as a Factory Kit America. The sensuous gas tank was autographed by New Zealand road-racing great Ginger Malloy.

The promoters expected 100 or so bikes to show up. I don’t have an official count, but regardless of the number, the entry was free and you could park your oil-burner in the shaded grassy area overlooking Cook’s main parking lot and the creek that runs nearby. It was a nice setting, with plenty of shade thanks to the sycamore and live oak trees in the area. A good thing, too, with temperatures hovering near 100 degrees.

I raced a 1975 RD250 similar to this one back in the same year. I won two class championships (AFM and CMC) with it, and always finished in the top three aboard my John Lassak-tuned bike. That also happened to be the final year that Yamaha offered the quarter-liter model, replacing it and the RD350 with the RD400 in 1976. I like to think they retired the RD250 because of my two championships, but in truth it was poor performance on the showroom floor that led to its demise.

At mid-day the promoters had a little fun, inviting the bike owners to fire up their two-stroke engines to make a little noise for the nearby Harley crowd. The local air quality took a big hit, but thanks to the many tree-huggers who reside in the state, we have much cleaner air today than we did in the ‘70s. Which leads me to the best quote I heard all day when a man commented to his wife and daughter while inspecting the bikes on the lawn: “I didn’t know this many two-strokes still existed in California.”

"What? I can't hear you, you're oiling up...I mean breaking up."

But thanks to the hooligans who keep their popcorn poppers popping, two-strokes continue to thrive in the Golden State and beyond. Dain Gingerelli

What two-stroke event would be complete without a gaggle of RD Yamahas? If you haven’t already recognized the man in the background, that’s Dan Gurney.

This early-‘70s Kawasaki Bighorn 350 dual-purpose bike was so clean you could eat off it.

Our good buddy Mitch Boehm was in attendance, hawking subscriptions to his magazine Moto Retro Illustrated. If you like older bikes, this is the mag to read.

This old YDS Yamaha greeted everybody at the entrance. 


  1. Enjoyed the article. I had two 2-stroke bikes when I was younger: 1971 Yamaha 250 enduro; and later, a 1976 Suzuki RM370 (I wish I still had that one!) Those bikes were pretty fast in their day.

  2. Also enjoyed the article. Formerly owned lots of strokers:
    1968 Yamaha DT-1 (the original Japanese enduro)
    1970 Yamaha L5T-A trailbike
    1973 Yamaha RD350 (raced it in ARRA and AFM 1979-1982)
    1973 Yamaha MX 360 (desert bike)
    1980 Yamaha YZ465G (desert bike)

  3. I owned a couple of Bultaco Metrellas, the simplest motorcycle ever. So good to see one again.

  4. Oh I have to see one of these. Maybe this year I can fly to California. I have four Kawi triples and an RD400 in Honolulu.